Whitley family to celebrate 159th reunion

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Elisha Everette and Mary Eliza Barnes Whitley family reunion will be held at noon on Tuesday, July 4, at the American Legion building on Armory Drive in Franklin.

A family news release continued by noting that relatives, friends and guests are invited to come and bring a covered dish for the noon luncheon. Plates, cups, utensils and beverages will be provided. This will be the 159th annual reunion held on the birthday of Elisha Everette Whitley.

Whitley was born in Hertford County, North Carolina, on July 4, 1829, to Joseph Elisha Whitley and Sarah “Sally” Lane. He married Mary Eliza Barnes, a daughter of John Elias Barnes II and Talitha Buxton, on Jan. 7, 1855. Nine children were born to the couple. Whitley was a miller and farmer by trade and spent most of his life in the New Hope Church-Winborne’s Mill community of Southampton County. Whitley enlisted in Company G, 31st North Carolina Troops on Sept. 12, 1861, and was paroled on May 2, 1865, after the surrender of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to Gen. William T. Sherman on April 26, 1865, at Bush Hill in Randolph County, North Carolina.

This annual reunion has been a family tradition for 159 years and is thought to be one of the longest continuous family reunions in America. Tradition goes that when Elisha Whitley returned from the War Between the States in 1865, his sisters had a dinner for him on his birthday that year, and he asked that this be continued. Since that time, there has been an annual reunion carried on by his children until their deaths and now by their descendants.

Whitley and his wife are buried in the Blackjack Oak Cemetery on the Virginia-North Carolina state line near Winborne’s Mill.

The William Henry Whitley family has the honor of serving as host for this year’s reunion.